Total Surrender to God’s Plan: A Story of Faith (Jason and Kerby Harpst)


I love real life examples of people willing to do whatever God calls them to do, regardless of the sacrifice or cost. I am happy to share one such story with you.

Jason and Kerby Harpst are a young couple that attend Grace Community Church. Cheryl and I had the privilege of being at their beach wedding that I was honored to officiate. They are dear friends. They’re small group leaders. They’re key volunteers in Grace Acres. In June of this year they will begin a new life of full-time missionary service in Costa Rica. Jason and Kerby are two of the most responsible and capable volunteers we have at Grace. They are professional, kind, loving people. It’s bittersweet watching people that you’ve grown to love move, but we are so encouraged and challenged by their step of faith. We will be partnering as a church with their work in Costa Rica in the months and years to come.

Here’s an interview our small groups pastor Ben Reed did with Jason and Kerby recently to help you learn their heart and next steps:

1. Where are you going in Costa Rica?
We are going to the small town of Villas de Ayarco, which is in the mountains about 45 minutes southeast of the capital city of San Jose.

2. What will you be doing while you’re there?
We will initially work with short term teams that come to Costa Rica as the Volunteer Team Coordinators for the Abraham Project. We will also work with the children that live in any of the three orphan homes that are part of the Abraham Project. Our vision is to set up a sports outreach program for the children and teens of the local community, where the average family lives at the “extreme poverty” level.

3. Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a place we have both visited before and we saw a great need for our help. The Abraham Project, in particular, is in need of help to expand on their vision and to reach more of the hurting people of Costa Rica through the love of Christ. With such a high cost of living, so many of the people cannot afford food for their children everyday and the local communities are filled with drugs, prostitution and gang activities. It is too easy for young children to get involved in these activities that are all too common for them. If they have an alternative choice to devote their time, such as a sports program that is based in the love and need for Christ in their lives, then they have a bright future…spiritually and socially.

4. Do you see this as a temporary thing, or something more permanent?
This is a permanent move. As we surrender to God’s calling, we feel this is a permanent move. Not a permanent move to Costa Rica in a sense, but a life devoted to what ever God has planned for us. Where ever He leads us in the future, we will follow in effort to reach more people around the world for Christ and expand His Kingdom.

5. What did you do prior to committing to going to Costa Rica?
I have my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and I have worked for both the Trane Company and General Motors Corporation. My wife, Kerby, is finishing her degree in Special Education this spring.

6. Why not continue doing that?
To be honest, it would be easy to continue my work as an engineer and having Kerby work as a school teacher. We could live comfortable lives and have a great place to raise a family in the United States but that would be our plans not God’s plans. God has specifically asked us to give that up, and go share our love and hope we have in Him.

7. Have you been to Costa Rica before?
I have been to Costa Rica seven times. Six times for short term mission trips and once in January for a “pre-moving” trip and to meet with the pastor and others we will work along side with at the Abraham Project. Kerby has been to Costa Rica twice before.

8. How do you feel uniquely gifted for what God’s calling you to do in Costa Rica?
As an engineer I am very organized which will help in the Team Coordinator aspect of our work in Costa Rica. Additionally, Kerby will be teaching English in the daycare center at the orphanage. With her specialty in Special Education, it will benefit her greatly when working with these children with physical and social disabilities. We have much to learn about being missionaries, but our focus is on serving our all powerful and wonderful God and sharing with others what He has done in our lives.

9. What are some challenges you’ve already faced in preparing to become a full-time vocational missionary in Costa Rica?
One of the biggest challenges is seeking financial support. We are not affiliated with any international missions agency so we need to raise 100% of our financial support. Costa Rica has a high cost of living; where a simple $8 Wal-Mart coffee maker here in the United States costs over $30 in Costa Rica. Our support will come strictly from friends, family members, fellow church members, or anyone else that shares our hearts for Costa Rica.

10. What is your biggest need right now? Is there a way we can help?
We need monthly supporters. We leave for Costa Rica at the beginning of June and what we really need right now are individuals that can commit to supporting us each month. Nothing is too small or too big. If you would like to support us, you can send a tax deductible check to “Grace Community Church” with a note of “Costa Rica” or “Jason and Kerby” to the following address.

Grace Community Church
PO Box 3980
Clarksville, TN 37043

You can follow us on our blog at www.todalagentecr.blogspot.com and you can always email us with questions or for more information at todalagentecr@gmail.com.

Have you seen this type of faith demonstrated in others? Whose faith is encouraging you these days?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Recap

I had a great time hanging with Nate Edmondson at Catalyst One Day Chicago. It was refreshing to be recharged and encouraged by two incredible leaders.

One thing I love about conferences is connecting with my online friends.  I was able to connect with online friends such as Michael Hyatt, Dave Ferguson, Jesse Phillips, and Jarrett Stevens.

I decided to add all my posts into one category. If you want to feel like you were there, click HERE and read these posts.

Have you ever attended Catalyst?  What conference do you most want to attend?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Andy Stanley on Momentum in our Practices

Andy Stanley closed out Catalyst One Day Chicago with a talk about momentum in our programming with a talk titled “Don’t Be That Couch”.  The title is based on a metaphor that we often hold onto the old couch that is no longer in style or even functional because we are attached to it emotionally.

Whereas programming begins as an answer to a question, over time it becomes a part of organizational culture.

The problem is that as culture changes, we don’t change the answers.  Instead, we institutionalize our answers and eventually it is no longer a valid answer.

We must continue to be more committed to our mission than to our programming or our model.

The tendency is to become more committed to our programs than the reasons they were designed.  Over time, sustaining the model can become the mission.

The church is in decline because we have fossilized around very old practices and we aren’t willing to adapt to a changing culture.  Andy admitted this is his opinion, but he said, “You cannot pray yourself out of decline.  You must behave yourself out of decline. “

Questions to evaluate:

  • What have we fallen in love with that’s really not as effective as it used to be? – Sometimes we hold onto things just because we love them, but they aren’t working anymore.
  • Where are we manufacturing energy?- If the pastor can’t get excited about it anymore, why should the people?
  • What are our organizational assumptions? – We make assumptions about people and programs that aren’t even true, based on our own limited assumptions.

Andy said some of us need to walk back into our churches and make the changes we know need to be made.

I have heard this talk before, and some of you readers will have also, but this is a talk I need to hear every few years.

Here are my questions I’m considering:

What programs are no longer effective in your church or organization, but you are married to them, because they’ve become a part of your culture?

Is it time for them to go?

Are you willing to make the hard leadership decision to let them go?

(Do any of these apply to you?)

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Craig Groeschel Creating Personal Spiritual Momentum

Craig Groeschel began his second talk at Catalyst One Day Chicago with two questions.  I posted those questions HERE.  Those questions offered a springboard for challenging leaders to create personal spiritual momentum.

Craig’s primary challenge was for all of us to commit that:

I will do TODAY what I can do, to enable me to do TOMORROW what I can’t do TODAY.

Then he shared four things to do today:

Do something everyday to defeat your dark side. Every person has something that keeps him or her from being all that God wants him or her to be.  It could be pride, or laziness, or insecurity, or a desire for approval, but identifying that trait is vital to defeating your “dark side”.

Most leaders (in ministry especially) will never really be done with their work.  One of the biggest problems with ministers today is that we never really feel finished.  Creating artificial deadlines to make decisions forces leaders to complete something, make decisions, and take risks and allows freedom to plan, dream and be with family.

Delegate what someone else can do. In the ministry world, we have a hard time saying no to requests for more of our time.  If another person can do a task 70% as well as you can do it, let him or her have the authority over the task.

Don’t delegate responsibilities; delegate authority. Delegating responsibility develops followers.  Delegating authority develops leaders.

Do something only you can do. You’re the only one that can truly rest for your soul.  “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened…” (Matt 11:28)  You are the only one who can truly let your soul be fed by God.  Take time to maintain your spiritual momentum.

Wow!  I needed this…do you?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Two Powerful Questions by Craig Groeschel

Craig’s second talk will be a two-poster…because he asked two powerful questions to begin his talk that merit placing in a separate post.

Leaders:

How many of you often feel overwhelmed with the sense of burden and responsibility that comes with leadership?

How many of you would say there’s a time in your life when you were closer to God than you are right now?

Wow!

How would you answer those questions?  Do you see the correlation?

(BTW, I raised my hand to both.  I’m a continual work in progress.)

I’m thankful for Craig’s transparency…stay tuned.

Catalyst One Day Chicago Session Two: Craig Groeschel on Mindset Changes

In the second session of Catalyst One Day Chicago, Craig Groeshchel spoke about “Busting Barriers with Mindset Changes” building from Romans 12:2.  His opening statement was that one of the major momentum killers is an improper mindset.

Craig is a great storyteller.  Here is some of what I learned from Craig in session two:

Think differently about your church culture. Every church is different and needs a different mindset.  As the church grows and changes, its mindset must be willing to change.

We all have those phrases “Our people won’t __________”  (Come to the early service, volunteer all month, give sacrificially…etc.)  Instead of saying that, we need to change our mindset to say “We haven’t led our people to _________”

Think differently about people leaving the church. The church can actually grow when people leave.  Churches need more confidence in the church God has called them to be.  Sometimes people are in the church for the wrong reasons and churches shouldn’t strive as hard to keep them.  There may be a church, which better meets what they are looking for in a church.

Think differently about limitations. Often the truth is “we CAN’T because we don’t.”

We don’t necessarily need more money.  We may need to learn how to do more with less.  Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we want for a reason.

Craig ended his talk with three assignments for the audience.

  1. 1. Find someone one or two steps ahead of you and learn how they think, not what they do.
  1. 2. Identify one wrong mindset you currently have and ask God to renew your mind with truth.
  1. 3. Identify one painful decision you’ve been avoiding and commit to make the decision no matter what the short-term pain.

There was much more to this session that what I can share.  This is another reason you need the CD’s from Catalyst One Day Chicago.

What are your thoughts?  What limitations have you placed on your church, because you aren’t trusting in God’s power or strength?

Catalyst One Day Chicago Session One: Andy Stanley on Momentum

Andy Stanley led the opening session from Catalyst One Day Chicago.  He shared a few introductory thoughts to his talk:

  • Businesses immediately respond when momentum decreases, but for some reason the church will ignore momentum declines for years as long as the bills are being paid.
  • Momentum is always disruptive, so it scares some churches.
  • Momentum is all about moving forward, which is why leaders like momentum.
  • If you lack momentum and you don’t understand these principles, you are one dumb decision away from losing it all.

Three components of sustained momentum:

New – Anything new, negative or positive, triggers momentum…

Organizational momentum is often triggered by one of these three things:

  • New leadership
  • New direction
  • New product

New doesn’t guarantee sustained momentum, but new is an essential trigger for momentum.

Improved – The new must be a noticeable improvement over the old.

Improving – Momentum is sustained through continuous improvement.  This improvement must be continually evaluated.

Andy walked us through the local supermarket to see how businesses do this everyday.  Andy explains these principles, including how he applies these principles directly to the church.  It was a very helpful talk.

What is your church or organization doing to offer new, improved and improving sustained momentum?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Opening Thoughts

I’m excited to be a part of the excitement at Catalyst One Day Chicago.  This is the first time in Chicago for Catalyst.  We are at Willow Creek Community Church.  This is my first trip here, and as I was warned, I’m blown away by this facility.

Today we will hear from Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel…in fact…they just walked on stage.  We are talking about momentum, but they are also doing a Q & A session.  We have just prayed that God would speak to us today with fresh ideas, renewed vision, and a greater hope.  That’s my prayer too!

I’m curious, if you had 5 minutes with either of these two great leaders, what would you like to say to them or ask them?

Inviting Evaluation from the People I Lead

Every year I allow the staff at Grace Community Church to evaluate me. I realize this works for some and not for others, but for me it is a part of my plan to continually evaluate and improve my leadership skills and success. I believe strongly that a healthy team allows itself to be vulnerable to each other.  This allows me to set a precedent/example for working transparently with each other.  I set up a system, this year it was using Survey Monkey, that allows them to remain anonymous in answering the questions. Hopefully, this helps them be more honest with me than if they had to sign their name. I tell them in advance that I’m looking to improve myself, not to feel bad about myself, so I ask them to be respectful in their response, but truthful.  (You can read last year’s evaluation in the related links below this post.)

After giving them a few weeks to complete the survey, I host them for a luncheon where we address the questions and give feedback.  I go over every response and/or question that was raised and we discuss it as a staff.

Here are this year’s questions and some of the feedback grouped into categories of answers.  I tried to give a form of every answer that was offered without giving all the repeats.

1. What am I currently adding to the team? What do you see as my strengths?
• Leadership / vision casting / driving the team to achieve more/better
• Accountability, years of wisdom, level thinking, forward/future thinking
• Structure, Future Thinking
• Constantly thinking of ways to improve our ministries. Always challenging us to think ahead.
• Dreaming, idea generation, communication, leadership development

2. What is my greatest weakness? Where do you think I still need improvement?
• Communication, but I can see you continually improving
• Over commitment. I feel like you’re stretched pretty thin most weeks. I know you thrive on being busy, but I don’t want to see you burn out.
• Personal time with staff
• Evaluate situation more before responding
• Rushing to the “next thing” / I realize that has been out of necessity for the most part though
• I think the staff feels a lot of pressure to keep up with you

3. Knowing my skills, where should I be placing more of my attention these days?
• A balance of the “business” end of things and continuing to help each pastor on staff raise their game.
• Helping encourage/improve the team’s strengths & working on their weaknesses
• Keep looking ahead. yet walk beside us where we are at now
• Leadership development
• Continuing to invest in staff, helping to look for future staff as well, helping staff understand who they are (personality, leadership style)
• Planning for the future for the church, reminding us of our specific roles
• Staff development, helping each of us to achieve more/better
• Holding the staff members that directly report to you accountable to their most important responsibilities

4. What do you need from me that you are not currently receiving in the way of leadership/direction?
• Continue meeting to talk, evaluate, and help me to develop my strengths
• Time with you to think strategically in our ministries
• To know when you are giving information vs. a task. You send out a lot of info, but I am not sure if it is just info or something you would want me to do.

5. Do you feel I have your best interest at heart?
• Yes (All answers positive…yeah for this time!!!)

6. Would you feel comfortable bringing problems to me? If not, why?
• Yes (Again, this time I got 100% positive…this has not always been the case.)

7. If you had my job, what would you do differently?
• Give staff time to rest, not send emails on known days off
• Work on staff accountability
• Although I don’t think you should micro manage, I think there is a lack of accountability we are missing as a staff that could hurt us in the long run

8. Since last year’s evaluation, I’ve tried to put down my phone more and listen better. Do you sense any improvement?
• Yes
• Somewhat, yes

9. Describe what you like and don’t like about the work atmosphere at Grace.
• I the love the work environment! Laughter, friendship, and core values. Downside: too much distractions with the space constraints.
• I like the laid-back atmosphere but still feel challenged to think creatively. I like that we are pushed hard to excel and not just be satisfied with doing ministry
• High energy, great being around each other. Not a quiet place to work at times. Very thin walls
• I love the freedom we have as a staff, but again I think some accountability with that freedom is key. There are times that the noise level & “craziness” gets in the way of serious ministry moments and focused work.

10. What would you like to say to me or what questions do you have for me, but you haven’t said them or asked them, for whatever reason?
• Do you see yourself at GCC long-term?
• Appreciate your sincerity, drive and focus
• Thank you. Seriously, thank you for believing in us, encouraging us, challenging us, and investing in us.
• You are very open to come to with problems or questions. I cannot think of anything.
• You have truly become my Pastor, my leader, and a friend. I love GRACE so much!

You might wonder why I’m sharing this. Well, there are two reasons. One, I feel it helps with my personal accountability to continue this process, even though at times the feedback can be hard to receive. Two, it helps share with other leaders who may feel this is something they should do to see what type of feedback is received. I learn something every time I do this. The key, obviously, isn’t just to learn something, but to do something with what I’ve learned. (That’s where more accountability is needed!)

Leaders, how do you solicit feedback from your team?
If you are on a team led by someone else, how does your leader solicit feedback?

10 Questions With Leader Ben Stroup – Generis


I love young leaders. I love the enthusiasm and energy they bring to organizations, which is one of the reasons at Grace Community Church we have surrounded ourselves with young leaders. Ben Stroup is another amazing young leader, but don’t confuse his age for his abilities.  Ben’s resume is packed full of experience.

Ben spent several years leading a major department at Lifeway Christian Resources and now is a full-time generosity strategist for Generis. Ben’s wisdom certainly exceeds his years. He has taken a specific interest in helping churches fully fund their vision. If your church is in need of a consultant in that area, I recommend Ben to you.

You can find Ben on Twitter. His book Church Giving Matters is available HERE.  Click on Ben’s LINK to find his new e-book “Push the Limits of Church Funding“.

Here are 10 questions with leader Ben Stoup:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

No. I wanted to be Superman first, then a policeman, teacher, and a preacher. By high school, I wanted to be a lawyer and politician.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

Assistant to the Minister of Sports Evangelism. That meant I waxed the gym floor, organized the closet, and wiped the sweat off he weights in the weight room. It taught me that there is much more to church operations than what you see on stage on Sunday mornings. Details matter.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

Dr. Ben Curtis, a professor at Belmont University. He taught me to listen not so much to what people say but what they aren’t saying.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

The Brand You by Tom Peters. Seems like an odd choice, I know. It is irreverent at times but it taught me to see life and myself differently.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Intense. Focused. Driven.

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

My ability to assess the current situation, understand the desired end results, and build and execute a plan to produce or create the desired end result.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

I never see defeat or failure as an option. Sometimes you just have to “call it” and start over.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Watch people whom God has gifted to build up the Kingdom in special ways try to lead but are completely ineffective due to their interest in position, power, and prestige. Also, watch churches sit on the sidelines of ministry because they are paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

Stewardship and generosity are markers of spiritual growth, not financial obligations. What people do with their time, talent, and treasure is what they believe is worth investing in. There is a very spiritual dimension to dealing with money and ministry which is hard for some to reconcile.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Make sure you’re listening to the right voices.

Who are some young leaders you admire and/or are watching?